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Week 12: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Tennessee Titans v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Each week during the season, I will be walking through the data from the previous Colts game analyzing the numbers to form a sort of “what happened” narrative as well as comparing the Colts against all other teams in the league. For a glossary of the stats listed, reference Season Stats. Thanks to Pro Football Reference,, Football Outsiders and the nflFastR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.

I think you already know that giving up 38 points is evidence of a bad defensive game, so I’ll just be quantifying the ways it was bad.

You don’t win many games when you yield 28 first downs and a 84.8% drive success rate. Give up a special teams return TD and that pretty much seals it.


Mouseover for definitions: Adj PPD, PPG, Yds, P/R%, DSR, xOPPD, Strt Fld, EPA/ply, adj TSR, 1st/ply, Pen 1st/ Yds, 3DC, 3rd ytg, Expl Plys, TO, TOP%

The 2nd worst points per drive against went hand in hand with the 2nd worst DSR and the 2nd worst defensive EPA per play. That is just letting your opponent do what they want.

The season totals are basically the opposite of that.


Mouseover definitions: EPA/db, PSR, Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, 1st/db, NY/A, Cmp %, aDOT, cpoe, YBC, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

Ryan Tannehill’s 0.46 EPA per drop back is ridiculous. Basically, that means that every time he dropped back, he increased his team’s expected score by almost half a point. So yeah, he shredded us.

On the season, the Colt’s passing defense has been pretty good ranking 7th in EPA/db against and 6th by DVOA.


Mouseover definitions: adj RSR, Yds, Car, TD, Fum Lost, RSR, 1st/c, YPC, 10+ #/Yd, 3rd, 3DC

They destroyed us on the ground too.

The first time the Colts played the Titans, Derrick Henry barely broke 100 yards. This time around he managed to eke out only 178 yards at a measly 6.6 yards per clip with 3 TDs and 10 first downs. Of RBs with at least 10 carries he was the 4th most successful runner on the week (adj RSR).

In contrast, on the year, the defense gives up the 9th lowest success rate and similarly ranks 9th in rushing defense DVOA.


This Colts defensive performance was worse than the worst Colts offensive performance from last year . . . by far. Just file this one away under “let’s never speak of this again”. Okay? Okay. Right, Texans.

The Houston offense has been a bit under-rated all year. Since an 0-4 start and the firing of their GM, they have put up the 7th most points per drive and the 4th most EPA per play. About a third of their plays are first down conversions giving them the 6th highest conversion rate of any team (33.5%). This is now a dangerous offense.

All of that success is due to Deshaun Watson. After a very rough start, he has turned it up to 11 putting up the 2nd highest EPA per dropback since week 5. In that timeframe, he also has the 2nd highest passing first down conversion rate and gained 8.1 yards per dropback, the highest in the NFL. He has thrown an average of 2.6 TDs per game, 3rd only to Mahomes and Rodgers. If the MVP race ignored the first 4 weeks, he would be in the running. Football Outsiders calls the Texans passing game the 5th best in the league. However, they did just lose Will Fuller for the season, so they are likely due for some sort of regression . . . pretty please.

The good news is that they are 1 dimensional. They don’t have much success on the ground (28th adj RSR) and they are last in the league in rushing for first downs (1st/c). Even if I ignore the first 4 weeks, the numbers don’t get much better (23rd adj RSRS, 32nd 1st/c). FO gives them a dead last 32nd rank in rushing DVOA. I don’t disagree.